An environmental allergy is a type of allergic reaction that is triggered by exposure to various environmental factors. This can include pollen, pet dander, mold spores, or even dust mites. People with environmental allergies experience the same symptoms as someone who has tree pollen allergies or any other kind of seasonal allergy. However, the source of their symptoms is different. People with environmental allergies, their bodies are reacting to certain types of particles found in their environment instead of something they eat.
For many people with environmental allergies, these symptoms tend to be more constant and present throughout the year rather than just during certain seasons like when there are lots of pollens floating around from trees and plants in spring and summer. What makes them stand out from other types of allergic reactions is that they’re not always triggered by something that you eat or smell; it’s something you come into contact with daily.
What Are the Most Common Environmental Allergens?
When we talk about common environmental allergens, we’re referring to the substances that cause allergy symptoms in most allergy sufferers. These include dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and pollen. Some people only experience symptoms from one or two of these, while other people may react to all of them. The severity of symptoms that you experience is largely dependent on the number and combination of environmental allergens to which you’re exposed and your genetics.
Even if you don’t know that you have an environmental allergy yet, you will likely experience one at some point in your life. These types of allergies are very common, especially in kids and teens. Between 40 and 50% of children under the age of 18 have some type of environmental allergy, making this a very common condition among young people. Adults can also develop environmental allergies, but they’re much less likely to do so compared to kids.
Dust Mite Allergies
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed on skin cells that are shed by people and animals, as well as the bacteria that grow on our skin. These organisms live in warm and humid places like mattress and pillows where lots of dead skin cells get trapped. They are very common allergens found in homes, especially in areas where there are lots of carpets and upholstered furniture.
The symptoms of a dust mite allergy include watery and itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and skin rash. If you think you may have a dust mite allergy, you can get tested by your doctor. They’ll collect samples from your home, including dust, bed sheets, and carpets, and test them to see how many dust mites are present. You can also reduce your exposure to dust mites by using allergen-reducing covers on your mattress and pillows. Vacuuming your home regularly with a HEPA filter can also help reduce the number of dust mites in your home, as well as other allergens, like pollen.
Pet Dander Allergies
Pet dander is the stuff that accumulates on your clothes and furniture after you pet your cat or dog. It’s made up of dead skin cells, saliva, and other things like bacteria and carbohydrates. Allergic reactions from pet dander can be extremely unpleasant, but they can be easy to reduce by cleaning your clothes, washing your hands often, and keeping your house clean overall. You can also consider getting allergy shots for your pet.
The symptoms of a pet dander allergy are the same as any other type of allergy. They include itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and red and itchy skin. You can get tested by your doctor to find out if you have a pet dander allergy, but it’s also possible to self-diagnose. If you notice that your symptoms are worse when you spend time around animals, especially dogs, you’re likely allergic to pet dander.
While it’s not always possible to avoid pets completely, there are a few things you can do to reduce your exposure to pet dander and its allergens, including washing your hands after you pet your animals, keeping your home clean, wearing a face mask when you clean your house, and regularly cleaning your pet’s bedding.
Mold Spore Allergies
Mold spores are a common allergen that you can find just about anywhere. It’s very difficult to avoid them, as they grow on a wide range of materials, including wood, paper, and fabrics. Exposure to mold spores causes allergic reactions in people with mold allergies, who experience symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, and a general feeling of being unwell. Many people don’t realize that they have a mold allergy since the symptoms are very similar to those of a cold.
However, if you have a mold allergy, your symptoms will be worse when there is more mold in your environment, like during a flood or rainstorm. You can test yourself to see if you have an allergy to mold spores by keeping a log of how you feel and your symptoms when there is more mold around. If you have a mold allergy, you’ll want to take extra care when cleaning since mold spores can become airborne and spread very easily. You should also avoid breathing in excessive amounts of moisture in general. A great way to do this is by using a humidifier or air conditioner, depending on the season.
Pollen and Plant Fiber Allergies
If you’ve ever had hay fever or seasonal allergies, you’ve probably heard about pollen allergies. These allergens come from plants, particularly flowering ones that bloom during warm months. Pollen is found in the air, where it’s carried by the wind and travels from one plant to another. People with pollen allergies notice symptoms like itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and a cough. There are two main types of pollen allergies: seasonal and perennial.
Seasonal allergies happen when you’re exposed to high pollen levels during certain times of the year, like during spring and summer. Perennial allergies, on the other hand, happen year-round. When you have a pollen allergy, your immune system mistakes pollen as something harmful, so it produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight it off. However, the IgE antibodies aren’t very specific and they react to other things like dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores, which can lead to very uncomfortable symptoms.
If you’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, and a sore throat that seem to linger for weeks on end, it’s worth investigating whether you have an environmental allergy. Environmental allergies are often mistaken for cold or other infections. And since they’re caused by common things like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander, they’re easy to overlook and dismiss. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you can make things easier by keeping your home clean and avoiding common allergens. This is easier said than done, but with a few simple lifestyle changes and some help from allergy treatments, you can reduce your symptoms and live a healthier, happier life.